The journey home: From Zeeland to Almere

Where we took our first ever sail over sea, saw seals and got stuck in the mist.

Motor sail
From Sunday 11:00am to Friday 04:30am
From Yerseke, Zeeland to Almere, Flevoland
Over the Noordzee (sea)
Approx. 65 nautical sea miles over the Noordzee


We bought the boat, we picked up her keys and had a few mild breakdowns. The main thing left to do now was get Ori home. She had been staying in a harbor in Zeeland. Her new home would be in Almere.

The ideal time to buy a boat would be spring or summer, because (of course) relatively calm sunny weather. Fall would be a lot harder, especially with the amount of rain and wind we've had recently. We bought her in almost-winter, and now we found ourselves having to sail her home in the first week of freezing weather of the season. The days were short, the temperature had dropped below 0 and the wind had been picking up a LOT. Not ideal, but we found a small window of a week with less wind, no rain and even some sun.

On Saturday we drove to Zeeland to drop off a lot of our preparations: Food, clothes, tools, a lot of diesel, sleeping bags and pillows, more clothes. We aired her out a bit, filled up the water and diesel tanks as much as we could, took a look at the new navigational system and checked buttons, lights and handles.

Sunday morning we met the parents of Freek in the harbor in Zeeland. They would join us for the first stretch of the journey, from Yerseke to Kamperland. A journey that would take about 3 hours motor sailing, but since none of us had ever sailed with this boat, 3 hours would be more than enough.

It went absolutely great. The weather was grey, but sort of calm. With our 4 layers of clothes, and enough space in the Oosterschelde to learn how Ori moves and reacts, we actually had a good time. We encountered our first bridge, and after a few cold hours we managed to get Ori into a box in the harbor in Kamperland!

The first 3 hours of our journey had passed. Whenever Freek and I sail, it immediately feels like a holiday to me. And now we had arrived at the Roompot, a well-known park with holiday homes, restaurants and a supermarket. After dinner (where we quickly became very rosy), Freek's parents went home with our car, and for the first time ever we were left alone with Ori.

The next day we had decided to stay put. The wind and rain would pick up a lot, and we weren't able to continue our journey. For accurate wind predictions, we use Windy (not sponsored) and while everything can look good, the predictions can change quite a lot within a day. So after our first nights sleep on board (10/10 would recommend), we relaxed, walked around the holiday park, read books and just enjoyed the moment. We've had quite an intense few weeks, and a lot of stress had been building up.

In the evening we got some food, watched tv and heard the wind picking up even more. In the evening, Freek went to check our mooring lines, and without us noticing, we had moved a bit from the dock with the wind forcefully blowing to the side of Ori. With our small boat, we are able to move the weight, but with Ori's 9000 kilo and the wet dock, it was a challenge to get her in place again. Everything was different and new. What were we doing?

The wind had been quite strong during the night, resulting in a restless sleep for both of us. The morning after, the wind had died down a bit, and we decided to continue as soon as we could. With the wind still a bit too strong for our taste, and a boat we didn't really know yet at all, we probably should have waited a bit for calmer wind. Getting her moving properly was a bit of a challenge, but before we knew it, we were under way to our first lock of the day, and on to sea.

The weather was gorgeous. Sun, with a temperature around 0 degrees, and virtually no wind. The conditions were perfect for our first time out on sea. Freek had to navigate through some treacherous sand banks, but once we were out of Zeeland, an entirely new world emerged. My anxiety was through the roof, but we had managed to get to the second big checkpoint in our journey.

You might say that sailing over sea might be easier than lakes or rivers, and in my very humble experience you would be right. With a dept of 4+ meters, no obstacles and almost no other boats, it was pretty nice. Our next checkpoint was Scheveningen, a big harbor just after Rotterdam. This would take us about 8 hours over sea in the sun.

One of the reasons we have the plans that we do, is because I want to experience more nature and animals in the wild. As if they knew it, seals started popping up while we were sailing. They would come up in front of our boat, duck down and come up again behind us, looking at us with their big eyes. I had to cry, but that could've also been the anxiety and exhaustion.

It was almost entirely enjoyable if I didn't become sea sick almost immediately we were on sea. The swell was not that heavy, but my body was in resistance. Very uncomfortably I managed to stare towards the horizon for 6 hours, and when we saw the pier of Scheveningen, my nausea disappeared and all was well.

After surviving crossing the Maas in Rotterdam and arriving in Scheveningen, we were ecstatic. We actually sailed our first sea miles over sea! Due to the heavy weather the next day, we decided to have another day off as well. We spent it getting some sleep, eat poffertjes, drink beer and visiting a Christmas pop-up store. We also got extra diesel, just in case.

After a relaxed night, it was now Thursday morning. We upgraded our leaving-checklist and with almost no wind, the conditions to go to our next checkpoint were perfect. Was it not for the thick layer of mist on sea, restricting us to leave. We tried to leave the harbor, but were called back by the harbor control, telling us that it was forbidden to leave with mist this thick. So we sailed back - smoothly, might I add, almost as if we know what we are doing. And again left the harbor 15 minutes later.

With seemingly 'easy' weather - sun, cold temperature and almost no wind - comes mist. Of course, we hadn't checked the actual weather forecast. We were so focused on a lack of wind, that we missed the mist warning. So now we found ourselves at sea, at times sailing through pretty thick mist banks. It was awesome. Very Pirates of the Caribbean.

When we were nearing IJmuiden, another large harbor of the Netherlands, we saw the biggest cargo ships I've ever seen from a great distance. Enormous buildings on the water, sailing much quicker than it would seem. We managed to get ourselves safely through the biggest lock of The Netherlands and for the first time in 2 days, We left the salt water behind and were sailing on sweet water again.

We had arrived at the last stretch of our journey. From here on it would be a few hours sailing through the Noordzeekanaal, a canal that flows from Amsterdam to the Noordzee (or the other way around?). Such a quiet, sunny stretch of the journey this was. We had to be careful around the many big cargo harbors, but apart from that we managed to make good time getting into Amsterdam. With only one lock and one bridge in our way, we were almost home.

The lock, called the Oranjesluizen, went fine. We were beginning to get quite handy with locks and Ori. After the lock a few things happened. The bridge we had to go under was just after the lock. Our height is 18+ meters, so we have to wait for the bridge to open before we can continue. With Amsterdam being as busy as it is, this bridge has 'peak traffic hours' in which it does not open for boats. And we found ourselves within the peak traffic hours and had just missed our last opportunity for 2 hours to pass the bridge.

We were stuck between a lock and a bridge with no real waiting dock, probably because they assume no one would be that stupid. At 6, we tried to get to the bridge, but it opened and closed almost immediately, leaving us no time to get through. The evening had fallen by now. And remember that mist I was talking about? It had found its way to Amsterdam as well, coming in hot - or cold. So now it was dark, very misty and we were still stuck between a lock and a bridge.

I'll admit it, I was panicking a bit. Freek did a wonderful job manoeuvring Ori and after a few anxious calls to the bridge operator, we got permission to dock our boat to the waiting dock, getting ready to wait out the mist.

I have no photos or videos of that evening and night, that is how anxious and exhausted I was. At 8pm we settled in, after securing our boat to the waiting dock. The mist was so thick. We saw nothing around us, and constantly had the VHF on to listen to communication around us. We had to wait out the mist, so after a bit of eating, we turned on the heater, and did small naps. Every two hours, my alarm would go off, and one of us would check the mist, all while we could follow what was happening around us through the VHF.

Around 2am, Freek woke me. I had managed to actually fall asleep. The mist had cleared up entirely, and with only 2 hours sailing to Almere left, we decided to continue. We contacted the bridge operators to open the bridge, and when it opened, we sailed through as quick as we could. Now we only had to sail in the pitch black dark to Almere. Luckily, with Amsterdam being a port as well, we could follow the buoys of the waterway to our harbor. I was on the lookout for big ships behind us, and Freek would steer us into the dark. The temperature had dropped to -4, but with no mist and a bit of wind, we felt ok. I think we were fully running on adrenaline by then.

It was scary, of course, but also exciting. I was so happy when I saw the skyline of Almere on the horizon. The last hurdle was getting Ori in her new box in the harbor in the dark. But by then, after 6 days sailing, mooring and manoeuvring and a deep breath, we reached the box and were home. It was 04:30am on Friday morning. After securing all the mooring lines, we decided to sleep on Ori another night. We were absolutely exhausted, and after a quick celebratory cup of Baileys, I had a wonderful nights sleep knowing I had conquered a tiny part of the Noordzee and lived to tell the tale.

The journey home: From Zeeland to Almere

Where we took our first ever sail over sea, saw seals and got stuck in the mist.


Melanie de Leeuw

1/12/20248 min read